Arusha, July 6, 2001 (FH) - International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) prosecutors targeted in court the musician Simon Bikindi, whose songs were broadcast regularly on "hate-radio" RTLM during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Bikindi is in exile in the Netherlands.

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On Thursday, Kenyan prosecutor Charity Kagwi questioned a prosecution witness in the so-called Media Trial on the role of Bikindi's songs in the genocide, but obtained only mitigated answers. Protected witness "SA" said only that Bikindi's songs referred to Rwanda's history of antagonism between Hutus and Tutsis, or boosted the morale of soldiers in the former army when they were fighting guerrillas of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF, now in power in Kigali). SA was a technician at state-run Radio Rwanda in 1994. The witness told the court that Bikindi's songs were still sold in record shops in Rwanda and listened to in bars. He said, for example, that they were often played in his favourite bar in Kigali, and that he would continue going to that bar when he returned from Arusha. "People listen to these songs to remember history," said SA, who testified in the Rwandan language, Kinyarwanda. He added that the music was compelling, unlike artists such as Michael Jackson. Observers suggest that the allusions to Simon Bikindi during the trial may not be gratuitous and that the prosecution could be "preparing something against him". Prosecution investigations are kept secret until an indictment has been made public. Asylum seekerSimon Bikindi worked at the Rwandan Ministry of Youth and Sports up to 1994, and composed a folk ballet. He is currently in exile in the Netherlands, where he has asked for political asylum. In a recent interview with French television channel France 2, Bikindi protested his innocence, saying that if he were to be accused of involvement in the genocide, he was prepared to defend himself. In their book "Rwanda, the media of genocide", French researcher Jean-Pierre Chrétien and his co-authors say of Bikindi's songs: "Here we find a typical case of using the past for political purposes and manipulating history to create an ideology, which is the dogma of the three ethnic groups condemned to perpetual enmity. This is a way to justify defending the 'priority interests of the majority'. " The book's authors describe Bikindi's songs as propaganda for rousing the Hutu population to action, which "echoed the activities of the racist media and of the militias". "Leave None to Tell the Story", a work on the Rwandan genocide published by Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights, says RTLM repeated endlessly a Bikindi refrain about the importance and benefits of the 1959 Hutu revolution. "Bikindi," says the book, "sang that the revolution should be preserved, 'especially by we who have benefited from it', a reminder that should the Tutsi win, they would not just reverse all the political changes of the revolution but also reclaim all the property that had once been theirs, leaving many Hutu destitute. This argument carried great weight with cultivators who were working lands received after the expulsion of the Tutsi and who feared above all being reduced to landless laborers. "The book also notes that during the genocide: "At most barriers there was a radio where the guards stayed tuned to RTLM during their long hours of keeping watch. And when patrols went out to kill, they went off singing the songs heard on RTLM, such as those of the popular Simon Bikindi. "The Media Trial groups former director of RTLM Ferdinand Nahimana, former politician and RTLM board member Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza and former "Kangura" newspaper editor Hassan Ngeze. Barayagwiza's lawyer Alfred Pognon from Benin said that in wartime, it was normal that a singer should "whip up the morale of the army". AT/JC/FH (ME0706E )